Larry's Legends: Joe Reitz finds his heart with football, after all

FootballCollege SportsCollege BasketballBasketballIndiana HoosiersNFLJoe Reitz

There's always a catch when you find a new love. Joe Reitz doens't exactly know that, but someone else in his family does.

"My wife brings up old pictures when I weighed 250 pounds and she's wondering why I had a six-pack then I don't have now," said the Colts offensive lineman, who now weighs in at 320 according to the team website. "Making fun of me."

Call it a simple price to pay for a new desire in an athletic sense.

After spending his college years as a basketball player, the Fishers native has now made the complete transition football with his first NFL start last Sunday against the Texans.

"It wasn't the outcome that we had hoped for and prepared for," said Reitz of his first start, which came in a forgettable 34-7 loss at Reliant Stadium. "It was exciting to get out there, but once that first play happens, you crash into the D-lineman for the first time, then your just playing football like you've done your whole life.

We'll not exactly. In fact it hadn't been since 2003 that Reitz has seen significant playing time on the offensive line. That came at Hamilton Southeastern High School, and while he excelled on the football field, he decided instead to pursue basketball at Western Michigan.

"I just liked basketball a little bit more at that time," said Reitz of his decision to pursue basketball. "When your growing up in Indiana they feed you all that Hoosiers stuff."

As a forward for the Broncos, Reitz became the third leading scorer and rebounder in school history and was regarded as a possible overseas professional basketball player.

But one night, a question was posed to Reitz's college coaches about what potential the 6-7 forward.

"Then (the scout) contacted my coach and found out that I had a football background and I had played," said Reitz of the start of getting involved in football. "So after my senior year was over, I signed with Buddy Baker and agent here in town."

As someone who represents a number of midwest athletes looking to move on to the NFL of NBA, Baker was able to get

"We weren't sure when we met with him whether he was going to be a professional football player or basketball player, where his true heart was," said Baker of Reitz after his senior season at Western Michigan in 2008. Ultimately we talked through that and we thought that his future was brighter in the world of professional football so we started talking about different paths that he would have to go through."

It began with workouts at St. Vincent Sports Performance in an effort to change Reitz's body to that of a football mold. After a few weeks, a workout was organized for Reitz with a few NFL teams at St. Vincent Sports Performance's Northeast side facility.

"He had a short time to get ready for it and worked really, really hard and did a nice job and has continued to grow from there," said Baker, who found a suitor for Reitz for the 2008 season.

Coming in as an offensive tackle-his position when he played football at Hamilton Southeastern High School-Reitz signed with the Baltimore Ravens and remained on their practice squad till the end of the 2009 season.

The following year Reitz signed briefly with the Miami Dolphins, but after a quick release he signed with the Colts in early September. Reitz remained on the practice squad for most of the season, but was brought to the active roster for the Colts Wild Card playoff game against the Jets.

"Now three years later and 60 pounds more I'm here in Indianapolis and loving life," said Reitz-but things have really gotten better over the last year.

Under the teaching of Pete Metzelaars, Reitz has been able to work his way into the Colts' starting offensive line to start the 2011 season. Metzelaars can relate to Reitz's situation, having been a standout basketball player at Wabash College before a 16-year career as a tight end in the NFL.

"The thing that translates is just the footwork, your guarding people and sliding you feet and moving a lot, those principals carry over to the offensive line because everythings about moving your feet and staying in front of the defensive lineman," said Reitz of using basketball skills to help with football. "I think just all the movement patterns and stuff like that its helped from the transition from basketball to football."

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